Dog ultrasound services are just one type of diagnostic and monitoring service that we offer here at Leesville Animal Hospital. A completely non-invasive procedure, the ultrasound is used to view internal bodily structures so that the source of symptoms may be found or existing health concerns may be monitored. Today we want to talk a little bit about the canine ultrasound to give you a better understanding of how the process works and what it can tell us about your pet.
Dog Ultrasound Services: Understanding the Importance of the Ultrasound
Even though it’s a non-invasive procedure, hearing that your dog needs an ultrasound done can be anxiety-inducing, so today we hope to be able to relieve a little of that anxiety by telling you what you need to know about the canine ultrasound.
What is a Dog Ultrasound?
Although many people refer to it as a “dog ultrasound” when looking online for information, the average vet clinic simply refers to it as an ultrasound because the same technology is used on many different types of animals in a veterinary setting.
Your Dog’s Ultrasound Visit
Setting Up the Ultrasound Machine
Ultrasound technicians (sonographers) are often called “traveling technicians” because they travel from clinic to clinic with their equipment since it is so expensive (some machines cost upwards of $50,000!) If you are the first ultrasound appointment at your vet’s clinic or if the ultrasound technician is running late, you may need to wait a few moments for them to set up their machine, but in most cases, this will already be done before you arrive.
Talking About the Ultrasound Process
Next, if they haven’t done so already, your vet and/or the ultrasound technician will take a few moments to talk to you about the ultrasound process and what they are hoping to find during your dog’s scan.
The next step is for your dog to be shaved in the area where the ultrasound reading will take place. This allows for a much clearer reading from the ultrasound. Of course, if this area is the abdomen and your dog has a bare abdomen, this may not be necessary.
Getting Your Dog Into Position
After this, your dog will lie on a flat surface – usually an exam table – in a position that will give the technician easy access to the area that needs to be scanned. Most dogs don’t need to be sedated for an ultrasound, but in some instances, it is easier for your dog and easier to get an accurate scan, if your dog is sedated. Your dog may also need to be sedated if a biopsy is to be taken at the time of your scan. Your vet will talk to you about whether or not your dog could benefit from sedation prior to your appointment.
Some veterinary clinics have specialized ultrasound tables that have sections cut out of them. These tables give easier access to harder to reach areas so the ultrasound can be performed without your dog having to lay in an awkward position.
The Ultrasound Itself
The next step is for the ultrasound technician to apply a water-soluble ultrasound gel on the area of skin that is to be read by the ultrasound. This gel is a conductive gel that creates a bond between the skin and the ultrasound “wand” (actually called a “transducer”).
The technician will then take the ultrasound wand and begin scanning the area.
When the technician and your vet have taken scans of the area, the gel will be wiped from your dog’s skin and your dog will be free to stand up again or if they were sedated, they will be free to get comfortable.
How Does the Ultrasound Machine Work?
The ultrasound machine works by sending high-frequency pulses of sound through the skin. These pulses travel through the body. Sound waves are able to pass through softer tissues and fluids, but when they hit harder objects, the waves are bounced back. These waves that bounce back are then interpreted into image form on the screen of the ultrasound monitor. The more of the sound waves that are bounced back, the brighter the image on the ultrasound, the less dense a structure is, the darker the image will be. For example, bone would show up as a bright white on an ultrasound, fluid is always black because it is not dense at all, and tissues are always a shade of gray.
Your veterinarian and the ultrasound technician will be able to look at the image created by the sound waves and compare it to their knowledge of healthy and “normal” structures. This information can tell them whether something abnormal is present or whether everything looks as it should be.
It is also common to use this technology to monitor the severity of conditions like diseased heart valves and to see how the disease is progressing.
How Can an Ultrasound Help You to Treat My Pet?
The reading from your dog’s ultrasound can help your vet to:
- Rule out or confirm specific causes of symptoms
- Determine whether a treatment plan is effective or whether a new approach to treatment should be taken
- Monitor the progression of diseases like heart disease
- Monitor pregnancy
- Identify treatment approaches for emergency situations
Overall, an ultrasound is an exceptionally helpful tool in getting a detailed look at the inner structures of your dog’s body. One of the biggest benefits of ultrasound technology is that it’s a non-invasive procedure that does not expose your dog to harmful radiation or chemicals.
The Ultrasound Vs. The X-ray
The ultrasound allows for imaging of softer tissues and structures unlike the x-ray and it does not subject your dog to radiation.
The Ultrasound Vs. The CT Scan
The CT scan gives a better visual picture and offers a wider range of views, however, the ultrasound is a much more affordable option for diagnostics and imaging. The CT scan also exposes your dog to very minimal amounts of radiation where the ultrasound does not.
The Ultrasound Vs. The MRI
The MRI provides a better image when bone or other dense structures lay over the area that needs to be imaged. This is because the sound waves of the ultrasound simply get bounced back off the denser surface of these structures where the MRI is able to image what lies below these dense structures.
The MRI image can provide more detail than the ultrasound as well, however, taking an MRI requires animals to lay still for a long period of time which can be difficult to say the least. Two more big differences between these technologies are cost and availability. The average veterinary clinic does not have easy access to an MRI machine and when it is possible to book an appointment for one, the cost can be quite prohibitive.
Are You Interested In Finding Out More About Our Dog Ultrasound Services?
If you’re interested in finding out more information about our North Raleigh dog ultrasound services or are just looking for a reputable and experienced veterinary clinic in Raleigh, Leesville Animal Hospital is here for you! Just give us a call today at (919)870-7000 to make an appointment with one of our three amazing veterinarians on staff!